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“Photographer-World Problems”: Renewing a Passport
Passport-Photo Glaze I have it -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 500 — image data
Passport-Photo Glaze
I have it

Renewing one's American passport by mail isn't too arduous for most folks.... you just need:

  • old passport
  • filled-out application form
  • photo
  • fee
  • self-addressed stamped envelope

For most folks the photo is probably the biggest hassle because you have to stop by one of those booths in a mall or something, but if you're a photographer, photo means you really need (or at least in my case I actually used):

  • Camera (Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lens)
  • Tripod (Gitzo and Really Right Stuff)
  • White foamcore board as backdrop
  • SB-900 speedlight as on-camera commander (why can't Nikon's pro body include a commander like the D700!?)
  • SB-800 speedlight as primary illumination
  • Reflector umbrella
  • Stand for umbrella
  • speedlight mount for umbrella/stand
  • SB-600 speedlight to light background
  • CamRanger camera remote-control unit
  • Apple iPad mini to connect to CamRanger remote-control unit
  • computer / Lightroom / photo printer / photo paper
  • patience

I have little experience with portraiture (though I try), but even less experience/confidence with artificial light, so it ended up being quite the ordeal to find everything and get it set up, then figure out how to work the speedlights. Nikon, bless them, seems to be able to come up with a completely different, completely horrible UI design with every new speedlight model.

Once I got things set up, actually taking the photos took only a few moments. Then another 20 minutes to put everything away, and then another 30 minutes fighting with Satan's Printer (the evil Canon MG3600, which I swear will be the last Canon printer I ever buy) to get the hardcopy. Then carefully cutting out the 2”×2” square required for the application took some time.

The application is a bit more complex living overseas because at least in Japan you can't write a check, so you have to go to the post office and get a postal money order to include with the application. With a postal money order, you pay in yen and get a paper redeemable (in this case by the passport office) for dollars at any post office in The States. It doesn't sound arduous, but wow, it was.

Years ago you could buy these at the post office like buying envelopes at a store.... simply say what you want, give the appropriate cash, and get the money order. Now, you need to fill out all kinds of forms in multiple languages in a very particular manner, government IDs, specify exactly what the money is for, etc. It was ridiculous, and took 45 minutes(!) to get the thing. Oh, and they added a $20 fee to cover their own time, I suppose. All this for a $100 transaction. I would have rather taken my chances throwing cash in the envelope, were it allowed.

Anyway, I just got my new passport in the mail this evening, so I'm set until I have to do this all over again in 2024.... or, at least, until it's time to renew Anthony's passport. But for a child's passport, America requires the physical presence of the child and both parents at the consulate/embassy, which is a hassle unto itself, but perhaps less so than the friggin' postal money order because when you show up in person, you can pay in greenbacks.

Then after that, the next passport hassle will be to renew Curious George's passport, but that's still five years off...


Comments so far....

Why can’t Nikon’s pro body include a commander like the D700

AFAIK, the reason is the prism in pro bodies is larger so there is no space for a small flash. They could put a little light somewhere though…

— comment by Damien on March 13th, 2014 at 11:38pm JST (4 months, 18 days ago) comment permalink

It has been my experience that the infrared control system works just fine for macro photography, or for other close-up work. But I quickly change to radio links when the setup involves anything beyond, say, 5 feet light to subject distance, or has moving subjects, or when things are in the way (blocking the IR signal). Carrying the radio units around is a burden, though. And more batteries are used up.

FWIW, CamRanger uses WiFi. —Jeffrey

— comment by Tom in SF on March 14th, 2014 at 2:31am JST (4 months, 18 days ago) comment permalink

I have to deal with a postal money order nearly every month. When I lived in Yonago, and again over in Sakyo-ku, the staff (bureaucrats?) there took only 10 minutes. But when I tried a few times at my current closest branch, at Kitayama/Horikawa, it took 45 minutes or so. I realzied that it this was due to one overzealous woman, and on the last visit, I completely lost my temper with her, something I never do in Japan.

As I test, I went back to my old post office near Imadegawa/Kita Shirakawa. 10 minutes. I tried at the old beautiful brick Meiji period branch on Sanjo. 10 minutes.

I think part of the reason it took so long for me is that I was at my local branch and they just didn’t have experience with them. Also, the forms are really vague. It’s a four-party three-transaction thing. There’s the transaction where I purchase it from my post office, the transaction where I give it to the passport office, and the transaction where the passport office redeems it at their post office. In this world, what do you put in the “payer” box? It depends which transaction’s point of view you’re talking about, the forms did not make this clear at all, and it was no more clear to my local post-office staff than to me. They ended up checking the US State Department website, and calling their own home office, before anyone could figure it out. I’m very appreciative of the efforts these people did on my behalf; my gripe is with the need for this onerous paperwork in the first place for a small transaction. It’s not like I’m trying to launder $100,000,000 in drug money, but it felt like it. —Jeffrey

— comment by ted on March 14th, 2014 at 6:29am JST (4 months, 18 days ago) comment permalink

Since you may print your own US passport photo [& maybe using PHOTOSHOP to touch up first !! :) ], that alone I consider it a blessing. Please read this stupid requirement for Canadian passport photo:

The name of the photographer or studio, the address and the date the photo was taken (not the date the photo was printed) must be provided directly on the back of one photo (see illustration above). This information may be handwritten by the photographer. Stick-on labels are unacceptable. Sufficient space must be allowed for the name of the applicant, the signature of the guarantor and the guarantor’s declaration.

How may a third party’s signature help proof the identity of a passport applicant (when the expired/expiring passport is usually sent in along with the passport application), I would never understand.

But spending 45 min on getting a money order, that is outrageous.

— comment by SomeOne on March 15th, 2014 at 7:43pm JST (4 months, 17 days ago) comment permalink
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